It’s for certain that Apple and electric auto maker Tesla don’t have a anti-poaching agreement, as the two companies are battling it out, both trying to lure the other’s top employees into their fold. And so far, Tesla seems to have the advantage…
The company has hired at least 150 former Apple employees, more than from any other company, even carmakers. The former Apple staffers work in many areas of the 6,000-employee automaker, including engineering and law. “From a design philosophy, [Apple] is relatively closely aligned,” says Musk, Tesla’s co-founder and chief executive officer. Apple declined to comment for this story.
The former Apple employees Bloomberg talked to said their decision to join Tesla was based on the company’s electric vehicles, and CEO Elon Musk, who – Like late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs – has a reputation as a visionary, but temperamental leader, who pays attention to the details. Musk is reported to have a soft spot in his heart for Apple, and relishes the comparisons between himself and Jobs.
Tesla, says one Silicon Valley recruiter who asked not to be named, attracts the same kind of employees that Apple does—driven, hard-charging, and drawn to a strong leader.
An Apple influence can be felt throughout a Tesla automobile, with a 17-inch touchscreen that controls most of the vehicles functions, and includes Internet access. Just like an iPhone or iPad, the Tesla operating system gets frequent over-the-air updates.
“When you talk to people in Silicon Valley, there’s a totally different mindset. They look at Detroit as old”
Joe Nuxoll, a freelance design consultant who has worked with both companies worked on a team of Apple alumni who designed the car’s control screen. “You try to design it so that it requires not a whole lot of thinking,” Nuxoll says. “It’s more like an iPhone than a Ford.”
LinkedIn profiles show a growing list of former Apple employees who have made the move to Tesla. Rich Heley joined Tesla in 2013 as senior director for manufacturing technology and is now vice president for product excellence; Beth Loeb Davies, has been director of training programs since May 2011; and Nick Kalayjian, who joined Tesla in 2006, is now a director of power electronics and has been awarded several patents for his work at Tesla.
“Elon has explained to me that it’s easy for him to hire someone from Apple, because when he does the interview process for a serious software engineer—a big human asset—he’ll meet with the person and geek out with them,” says Morgan Stanley’s Jonas. “They’ll like talk about nerd software coding stuff.”
CEO Musk says Apple has been trying to lure Tesla employees away from the Tesla fold, even offering $250,000 signing bonuses and 60% salary increases. “Apple tries very hard to recruit from Tesla,” he says. “But so far they’ve actually recruited very few people.”